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The Heart of Saint Padre Pio Prays

for the Poor Souls in Purgatory

Homily of Most Rev. Antonio J. Ledesma, SJ, DD for the Mass at Padre Pio's Shrine

Sto. Tomas, Batangas, October 23, 2018

      Over the past year, in one of our parishes, the parish priest and his pastoral council have been discussing with parishioners the plans for putting up a columbarium at the basement of the church.  Several concerns were raised by some parishioners -- e.g., creating traffic problems, commercializing a holy place, or scaring the neighborhood children by locating a cemetery in the midst of a populated area.  Other parishioners tried to reply to these objections by clarifying the physical and financial aspects of the proposal.


       But what perhaps turned the discussion onto a new plane was the remark of one of the parishioners:  "We are building not a cemetery, but a shrine for the Communion of Saints." Indeed, it is this same faith-perspective that allows us to reflect that the heart of St. Padre Pio prays for the poor souls in purgatory.


       Padre Pio bore the five wounds of Christ's crucifixion on his hands, feet and side for fifty years!  In bearing the stigmata, he was called a "living crucifix."   When he died, the signs of the stigmata also disappeared -- as if to tell devotees that the wounds of Christ are shared only with the living.  But, more profoundly, the stigmata for Padre Pio signified his intimate union with the crucified Christ -- and through this union with Christ, his solidarity with all the faithful.  For Christ shed his blood for all,  faithful and sinners alike.  


       This solidarity with all the faithful extends to the three sectors of the universal and time-less Church:  all those still living on earth in their struggle against worldly attractions and the wiles of the evil one (the Church Militant);  the saints in heaven who have "fought the good fight" and are now blessed with the beatific vision of God (the Church Triumphant); and the faithful who have ended their life journey on earth, but are still in need of purification (or purging) before entering the fullness of joy in heaven (the Church Suffering).


       This then is the meaning of the Final Purification or Purgatory which is concisely explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 1030):  


    "All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven."  


     The Catechism continues:  "The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned" (1031).


       The Catechism concludes:  "This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture....From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.  The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead" (1032).


       It would usually take Padre Pio two hours to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass.  At one point when he was under investigation by a Vatican representative, he was ordered to say Mass in the usual length of time, about half an hour.  Padre Pio's reply was simply to express how one is summoned to reflect on the ineffable mystery of the Mass.  


       Indeed, in the Canon of the Mass, we are all invited to pray for all those who have gone ahead of us:  "Remember also our brothers and sisters who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection, and all who have died in your mercy: welcome them into the light of your face."  The Eucharistic Sacrifice brings together the five wounds of the crucified Christ and the pouring of his mercy upon all souls in this life or in the next.  For Padre Pio, his bearing of the stigmata is also his reminder to us that God's mercy is poured out for all of us on earth as well as for the souls in purgatory.


       This coming All Souls' Day will be another occasion for our beautiful custom in the Philippines to remember and pray for our loved ones in cemeteries-turned-into-shrines for the Communion of Saints. We pray for them as they too intercede for us.  Likewise, the ChurchTriumphant and the angels join this Spirit-filled communion of saints that constitutes the Church across generations.  


       May Saint Padre Pio be our model and guide in praying for the souls in purgatory!


by Rev. Fr. Randy Jasper C. Odchigue

THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL in 1967 is considered to be a watershed event for the renewal of the life of the Catholic Church. Flowing from the organising theological concept of "communio," practices that signify renewal became lenses through which the relevance and authenticity of an ecclesial community is discerned. In practice, Vatican II is seen in the communitarian liturgical celebrations, in communal reflection of the Word of God, in lay participation, in collegiality and the rediscovery of the local churches. 

Butuan, erected as a diocese on the heels of Vatican II. can be regarded as a daughter oft his movement of renewal. She is envisioned to be a community that lives and breathes the spirit of aggiornamento of the council.

As Butuan commemorates its golden anniversary as a diocese, we look back with gratitude for all that has been. We are grateful for this milestone as the diocese continues to journey towards relevance and authenticity. The growth of the number of clergy and the parishes, the numerous Basic Ecclesial communities where
the breaking of the bread and reflection of the Word are done on the grassroots level, the many programs and initiatives for the various sectors in society, all attest to the efforts expended in the diocesan journey towards relevance and holiness.

Under the leadership of the two bishops, Butuan diocese became-and continues to be-a local church engaged in the on-going call for renewal and evangelical work.

During the tenure of Archbishop Morelos, Butuan has been at the forefront of the Mindanao Sulu Pastoral Conference implementation through lay empowerment and organisation of Basic Ecclesial Communities. Formation programs for lay people and priests were given due importance through the establishment of the seminary and the pastoral formation center. Programs on social apostolate ranging from indigenous peoples to sectoral groups were initiated.

Under Bishop Pueblos: the intensification of Gagmayng Kristohanong Katilingban was prioritized; reorganization of educational centers were done and engagements for peace and development were given pre-eminence. Throughout the ministry of the two bishops, parishes and diocesan shrines were erected. Likewise, priests and religious working in the diocese rose in unprecedented numbers, making Butuan a vital local church in the Caraga region.

One can indeed celebrate golden anniversary with gratitude for the graces bestowed upon the diocese. The trajectory of renewal initiated in Vatican has been set and with past engagement of the diocese, the journey has been set. If the diocese will stay the course, one can look to a future that holds promise to the people of God in Butuan.

The vision that inspires the diocese of what can and might be for the local church enables us to work with zeal and enthusiasm in the various ministries and apostolates. God's 'kingdom imaginary' of the future lays claim to our present actions so that we are held bound and responsible for the choices that we make and the praxis that we choose in order for that imaginary to happen in our midst.

As Butuan faces the contemporary challenges of clergy renewal, integral evangelisation for the people of God and the creation of viable and sustainable structures
for the accountability and effective implementation various apostolates and ministries, we hold on to the hope of the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ our saviour.

We continue to labor on behalf of the kingdom with the grace of God in whom we live and move and have our being. (Acts:17:28)

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